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Dispel the myths and set yourself free

Sleep myths are common. Though you might think that these are harmless, the truth is that they can feed into unhelpful beliefs and worsen your sleeping problems. If you believe, for example, that drinking alcohol improves your sleep, or that you can thrive on five hours sleep a night, you’ll be fostering harmful habits and putting yourself at risk.

Lack of sleep causes damage that goes far deeper than simply feeling tired. It doesn’t just make you grumpy and tired, it wears you down in other ways because you are deprived of the restorative and healing powers of sleep. Apart from the threat to physical and mental wellbeing, chronic tiredness makes you more prone to errors and accidents.

So, if you taking action to improve your sleep, it’s also important to separate sleep fact from sleep fiction and dispel some of the more common myths.

Older people need less sleep

Though sleep patterns change as we age, the amount of sleep we need generally doesn’t. Older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less nighttime sleep, but their sleep need is no less than younger adults. Because they may sleep less during the night, older people tend to sleep more during the day.

Alcohol makes you sleep better

Drinking alcohol can make you tired and cuts the time it takes to first drop off. And, of course, drinking a lot will knock you out. But the result is fragmented sleep. Drinking alcohol less than two hours before bed reduces REM and people tend to wake more often. REM the stage is when most dreaming occurs, and it is very important for emotional regulation and memory; it’s when the brain does it’s ‘housework.

Yawning is a sign you’re tired

There are many things apart from fatigue that can trigger yawning. Sometimes we yawn on awakening or during the day if we’re bored or even if someone else does! People can yawn to cover deception or to end a conversation. Yawning also

Catching up at weekends is OK

Binging doesn’t replace lost sleep as well as you might think. Sleeping longer at the weekend to make up for lost sleep during the week upsets your circadian rhythms and makes refreshing sleep less likely. Regularity programmes mind and body to sleep better. It’s best to keep a consistent schedule if you want restful and refreshing sleep. Therefore, if you have missed sleep during the week make up for it a bit at a time – say, one to two hours a day for a week – to avoid disturbing your regular sleeping pattern

Some people don’t dream.

We all dream, but we don’t necessarily remember it.

When we dream, we process emotions and experiences that we’ve had during the day. That seems to be important for both emotional and mental health, according to Walker. Dreams are also connected to problem-solving and creativity.

You don’t need a lot of sleep to function well

This is one of the most tenacious myths, it won’t go away.

It is one of the most damaging myths to health, say researchers.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously had a brief four hours a night. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made similar claims, and swapping hours in bed for extra time in the office is not uncommon in among driven business execs.

People who frequently sleep less than six hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease. There’s evidence too that lack of sleep can alter how you respond to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure.

Laying the myths to rest

Myths like these are often so deeply rooted that many people take them to be facts. The result is that we can mistakenly collude in our own sleep deprivation. When we buy into sleep myths, it makes it harder to break the bad habits that interfere with good sleep.

Getting the facts straight feeds directly into creating the right mindset to set you on the path to sleep recovery. Sleep myths are tenacious but when you understand they are false you set yourself free.

Learn to improve your sleep

Be among the first to get access to my online course Sleep – Tips for Beating Insomnia when it goes live early in May 2019. I’ll email you your access code as soon as the course is published.

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